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Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #64 December, 2003 - February, 2004

Mystery Reviews
by Gerri Balter

        Faith Fairchild and her minister husband Tom haven't been seeing much of each other lately at the beginning of The Body in the Moonlight ($6.99) by Katherine Hall Page. Tom has been busy with the church's restoration project while Faith has been juggling motherhood and her business as a caterer. When Faith caters the restoration project kickoff dinner, Gwen Lord is murdered after eating the dessert. It's bad enough that Faith might be a suspect. What's worse is Tom's reaction leads everyone including Faith to believe that maybe he and Gwen were closer than parishioner and minister. Faith is determined to find the killer. Tom refuses to talk to Faith about his strange behavior. Then Gwen's fiance is found dead. Tom continues to be distant. Faith has to find out the truth even it could mean the destruction of her marriage.

        From the moment I started reading A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott ($6.50), I found myself reliving life as it was in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Having lived through those times, I marvel at how well the author brings the people and incidents to life in such a realistic fashion.
        This story actually starts in 1939 during the premiere of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta. Billy "Smokey" Dalton and his friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. watched outside while Clark Gable and Carole Lombard arrived. The next night they sang in the choir led by Martin's father. A few nights later, Smokey's parents disappeared never to be seen again. Smokey is sent to live with a foster family. He grows up and leaves Atlanta. In spite of his college education, he makes his living as a private investigator. He's a loner by choice. Then Dora Hathaway enters his life. Her mother left Smokey $10,000 and she wants to know why. Smokey is curious too. After all why would a white woman he never met want to leave him, a Black man, money? He warns her that she might not like the answer. What he doesn't count on is how what he finds will impact him and his life.

        Skeleton Crew by Beverly Connor ($7.99) deals with presentday murder and murder that took place several centuries ago. While working on skeletons that have been excavated from a Spanish galleon, Lindsay Chamberlain finds that one of them didn't die from natural causes. That's not her only problem. She finds herself attracted to John West, an American Indian, who doesn't believe that archeologists should dig up anyone's ancestors, especially his. John is in charge of the coffer dam that holds back the ocean so Lindsay and the rest of the crew can work on the excavation. There are rumors of another ship, this one filled with treasure, which might be nearby. There are several groups of people looking for it. When some of the treasure keepers are murdered, Lindsay finds herself investigated more than one mystery at a time while having to deal with her attraction to John.

        Jane Lawless is slowly recovering from her injuries as The Merchant of Venus by Ellen Hart ($13.95) begins. She is impatient with her slow recovery and nightmares keep her from sleeping. When Cordelia's sister, Octavia, comes back into her life and invites both Cordelia and Jane to attend her wedding, Jane agrees, hoping the change of scene will help her. What she doesn't count on is murder. Octavia's groom, Roland Lester, is murdered before the wedding ceremony is completed. Roland Lester, a movie producer, was a suspect in the murder of Lew Wallace, several years earlier. Jane wonders if the two murders are connected especially since the woman who's doing a documentary on Roland Lester is also murdered. All the suspects have secrets. Some of them are more sinister than others. It's up to Jane with Cordelia's help to find the truth before she becomes the next victim.

        Could there be a serial killer in Loon Lake, Wisconsin? That's what it looks like in Dead Water by Victoria Houston ($5.99). Dr. Paul Osborne is taking the kayak his daughters bought him out when he finds the first victim. A short time later the second one is found. Both have bite marks on their shoulders. One of the victims is a business woman who was conned by a man who took her money. A friend of hers has reason to believe he's the one who killed her and he is in Loon Lake. However, no one seems to match the description or the picture of the man. Dr. Osborne is trying to fight his attraction to police chief Lew Ferris due to the difference in their ages. His friend, Ray, finds out he has a son who he is trying to get to know. The killer has a reason to kill all of them. They'd better find him before he kills them.

        Qwilleran was lonely when his friend, Polly Duncan, left for a vacation with her sister. So when Lori Bamba asked him to come to their inn and stay because she felt there was something gloomy there, he agreed. He packs his cats and moves to Nutcracker Inn as The Cat Who Went Up the Creek by Lilian Jackson Braun($6.99) begins. He does some research and finds the inn has quite a history including runaway lovers and a falling out between friends. Then there are the postcards from Polly which keep mentioning another man. Qwilleran tries not to be jealous. He buries himself in finding interesting stories about the people who live nearby. However, when some of the inn's guests are murdered, he turns his curiosity to what is going on in the lives of the people who are staying there. As usual Koko tries to help. Hopefully Qwilleran will understand what Koko is telling him before it's too late.

        Murder Among Friends by Jonnie Jacobs ($5.99) begins when Kate Austen finds the body of her friend Mona Sterling. Beside the body was an empty bottle of sleeping pills and a fifth of scotch. The police believe she committed suicide. When Kate's other friend, Sharon Covington, can't convince the police that Mona didn't commit suicide, she convinces Kate to help her find proof that Mona was murdered. She also convinces Kate to give a home to Mona's teenage daughter, Libby, because Libby refuses to stay with her father, Mona's ex-husband. Libby believes she's responsible for her mother's death. It's up to Kate to prove her wrong while finding the real killer. There are plenty of suspects including Mona's ex-husband and his future wife. The killer is willing to do anything to keep from being caught including killing Kate.

        Sometimes clichés have some truth in them. That's what Benni Harper finds out in Arkansas Traveler by Earlene Fowler ($6.99). Benni goes home to Sugartree, Arkansas with her friend Elvia for the Sugartree's Baptist Church's homecoming. Benni's cousin, Emory, and Elvia are in love and Benni hopes that Emory will propose to Elvia. Benni has a wonderful reunion with old friends, Dr. Duck Wafefield (a white cardiologist), Amen Harriet Tolliver (a Black woman running for mayor), and John Luther Billings (who owns Billings' Bean-N-Biscuit. They were Benni's best friends. When the son of the current mayor of Sugartree is murdered after spewing racial epithets At Amen and her family, Amen's nephew is a prime suspect. Benni doesn't believe he did it and doesn't have much use for the police after they almost arrested her husband Gabe because of the color of his skin. Unfortunately, her investigation leads her to find out things she'd prefer not to know.

        Michael Connelly is one of my favorite authors. He's one of those authors who hooks the reader with the first sentence. City of Bones ($7.99) is no exception. No wonder it's an Edgar nominee. It begins with a physician's dog finds a human arm bone. It belongs to a young boy who has been abused before death. Harry Bosch and his partner, Jerry Edgar are given the case. It isn't easy because the boy died around twenty years earlier. Even if they find out who the boy is, most of the clues have long since disappeared. The media is hounding the detectives to find out the truth while the large case load dictates that they either find some answers quickly or drop the whole thing. Harry feels for the dead child and is determined to find out the truth. It takes to places he'd rather no go and leads to revelations that will change his whole life.

        North of Nowhere by Steve Hamilton ($6.99 or $23.95 signed hardcover) begins on the eve of Alex Knight's forty-ninth birthday. He has buried himself in his home, not wanting to go anywhere or do anything. He feels as if he's a failure. His friend, Jackie Connery, coerces him to pay poker at the home of Win Vargas. Vargas is a pompous man who likes to show off his wealth. During the poker game, three masked men break in and rob Vargas at gun point. Alex, a former police officer knows enough to memorize what he could of their appearance. Then Vargas accuses him of setting up the crime. Jackie and two of the other poker players are arrested for the crime. When one of the robbers turns up dead, Alex is determined to find out the truth and clear Jackie's name. He teams up with his former partner and together they search for the robbers, not realizing that the robbers are looking for them. Alex begins to realize that life is not over at forty-nine.

        Rode Hard, Put Away Dead by Sinclair Browning ($5.99) takes place on a horse ranch in the Arizona desert. Besides a murder mystery, it gives the reader an idea of what life is life on a ranch. Trade Ellis is the ranch's owner who is also a part-time P.I. She has enough trouble due to the fact that a guest on her ranch, Cori Elena Figueroa de la Fuente Orantez, is hiding from the Mexican Mafia. Along with keeping the ranch going, dealing with Cori Elena who tells people where she is even though she is supposed to be in hiding, Trade is struggling to learn how to use a computer. Add to that the death of Abigail Van Thiessen, an older woman, who married a young bull rider, J.B. J.B. hires Trade to prove his innocence. Trade isn't sure J.B. is as innocent as he proclaims, especially since she keeps on turning up people who give him a motive to murder Abigail. She is determined to find out the truth no matter where it leads her.

        I have been a fan of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody novels since I read the first one. It's a series that gets better and more interesting with each novel especially since the story is seen from more than Amelia's point of view. Lord of the Silent ($7.50 pb or $25.00 signed hc) is a perfect sample of this. World War I does not stop Amelia and Emerson Peabody, along with their son, Ramses, and his wife Nefret from returning to Egypt do take part in their annual archeological dig. Amelia and Emerson are worried about their son's safety due to his undercover work the year before. So they send him and Nefret to Luxor assuming he'll be safe there. Each has promised not to keep secrets from the others. Circumstances cause each of them to break the promise hoping to keep the others safe. Unfortunately, no one is safe. In between attempts on their lives and finding dead bodies, the two couples uncover more than artifacts. This book is a perfect mixture of action, mystery, and romance.

        When he hears that the last two people who held the position of medievalist at the University of Texas at San Antonio died, Tres Navarro isn't sure he wants accept the job. However, the University wants to hire him as much for his detective skills as for his teaching kills. That's how The Last King of Texas by Rick Riordan ($6.50) begins. When the police arrest a suspect, everyone is happy except Tres. He has a feeling that someone else is responsible for the murder. After a friend of Tres is seriously wounded, Tres is determined to find the truth. The problem is that there are those who want Tres to stay out of it and are willing to committing murder to force Tres to drop his investigation.

        Witness for the Defense by Jonnie Jacobs ($6.99) starts out when Kali O'Brien is asked to work on what seems to be a simple adoption case. Terri Harper and her husband want to adopt a baby. They have been taking care of the mother, a teenager, who definitely does not want to keep her child. It all seems straight forward enough to Kali so she takes the case even though Terri is the half-sister to Steven Cross, a man Kali was once involved with. A young man who claims to be the father comes in and signs away his rights. Then another man, a controversial radio talk show host named Bram Weaver, claims to be the father and he doesn't want the baby to be adopted. Before his claim can be proven, he is murdered. Terri Harper, who threatened him, is charged with committing the crime. Kali is sure Terri is innocent, but she is also sure that Terri is lying to protect someone. Could it be her husband who was supposed to be out of town at the time? Could it be her mother who had stayed overnight with Terri? Or maybe Kali is wrong and Terri is guilty. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence against her. In order to clear Terri, Kali has to work with Steven. Their close contact brings up old feelings she thought she had conquered.

        When I first heard that Millers Kill was the name of the town In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming ($6.99), I thought what a wonderful name for a town in a murder mystery. Once I started reading the book, I learned that Kill is Dutch for a shallow river or a big creek. However, there is both murder and mystery in this small town. There are two main characters in this novel. One is Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, a hometown boy, who came back to Millers Kill as an adult. The second is Episcopalian Priest Clare Fergusson, who came to Millers Kill from the south and is totally unprepared for an upstate New York winter. The novel begins when Clare finds an abandoned baby boy named Cody left outside the church with a note asking that he be given to the Burns, a well-to-do couple who have been trying to adopt a child. After the mother and the mother's father are found murdered, Russ works hard to find the killer while Clare works to help the Burns gain custody of Cody. The problem is that the Burns are the prime suspects in both murders. It takes both Clare and Russ working at cross purposes to find the truth while their feelings for each other grow which is a problem in a small town where the residents gossip about everyone and Russ is a married man.

        When I bought Point Deception by Marcia Muller ($7.50), I assumed it was part of the Sharon McCone series. I found out immediately that it wasn't. The main characters of this novel are Rhoda Swift, a sheriff's deputy in Soledad County, California and Guy Newbury, a New York journalist. Both are scared by their past. A young woman is stranded on a coastal highway. Several people pass her, some more than once, and no one stops to help her. When her dead body turns up, they feel guilt and fear. Thirteen years earlier two families were massacred in nearby Cascada Canyon. The people who live nearby haven't gotten over the massacre. Things get worse when Guy Newbury arrives. He has been hired to write about the massacre. Rhoda Swift feels guilty because she made a mistake in the investigation of the people who were massacred. Guy and Rhoda team up together to find out what happened in that canyon and why people are still being murdered to hide the canyon's secret.

        Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan ($6.99) is more than just a mystery. It's a story where the reader learns a great deal about Bill Smith's past. It starts when Bill receives a call from the NYPD. They're holding his fifteen-year old nephew, Gary. It's been a long time since Bill has seen Gary. Gary is released to Bill and promptly escapes. Bill could let it go, but he doesn't; Gary reminds him too much of himself. Bill, with Lydia Chin's help, investigate the situation. Bill's sister and brother-in-law don't want Bill's help. He doesn't care. He goes to Warrenstown, New Jersey, where Gary lives with his parents. He finds a town where the high school football team can do whatever they want and get away with it. Gary is a member of the team. When Bill finds a teenage girl's dead body and the team members are implicated, he wonders if this is the trouble Gary is running away from. Whatever it is, Bill is determined to find Gary make sure he faces the consequences of his action, no matter what they are. In the meantime he has to come to terms with his past and what it has done to him and his sister.

        Garden View by Mary Freeman ($6.50) begins with Rachel O'Connor working on a large job to renew the landscape at Garden View Retirement Village while getting ready to marry Jeff, the Chief of Police. Her landscaping job isn't going well. Then people at the retirement village begin to die mysteriously. Her fiancé is having problems with a thief who seems to know the police's every move. People in town are becoming angry. If he can't do the job, maybe someone else can. Could the two be connected in some way? Like it or not, Rachel finds herself investigating both crimes. Unfortunately, she isn't the only one. People close to her are also investigating and they are getting too close to the truth.

        A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly ($25.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb) teams Terry McCaleb and Harry Bosch. Terry McCaleb has recovered from his heart transplant. He's married and has a young daughter. He should be happy. Yet there's something missing from his life, his job as a profiler. So when Jaye Winston brings him a case of a murder that looks like the work of a serial killer, McCaleb jumps at the chance to help her in spite of the fact that his wife doesn't like the idea. However, he's not so happy when he finds information that leads him to believe that the serial killer is Harry Bosch, a man who he's worked with in the past. He likes Bosch and doesn't want to believe he's become a killer. However the case is taken out of his hands. Meanwhile Bosch finds out about it and it's up to him to find the truth before his career is destroyed and a murderer goes free.

        A Killing Sky by Andy Straka ($5.99) begins when Frank Pavlicek, private investigator, receives a copy of a 20-year-old article about the death of George and Norma Paitley due to a car accident. It is one of the bits of evidence Cassidy Drummond gives Frank when she begs him to find her twin sister, Cartwright. He can't figure out what this has to do with the disappearance of Cartwright, who was way too young to be involved. Their father is a powerful man who doesn't want Frank involved and threatens to destroy his life if he does. However, Frank's girlfriend who is friends with Cassidy and Cartwright's mother wants him to find out the truth. He begins the investigation expecting to find the missing girl. Instead he finds out more about the Drummond family than he wants to know. His daughter, about the same age as the Drummond twins, wants to help. He worries about her safety as well as Cassidy's. After Cartwright's bloodstained car is found, the police are convinced the girl is dead and that Frank may have something to do with her murder. Frank has to find out the truth before it's too late.

        Gallows View by Peter Robinson ($7.50) is the first Inspector Banks mystery. Alan Banks has three mysteries to solve. One involves a Peeping Tom. He only looks at blondes while they are getting undressed. The second involves robbery. The robbers start with stealing from elderly women and move on to rape and robbery of the wealthy. The third is the murder of an elderly lady. In the little village of Eastvale, it's considered a crime wave. Could all the crimes be committed by the same person? That's what he wants to know. This novel introduces us to Alan, his wife, and the police and inhabitants of Eastvale.

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